Over the past decade it's been a real shame that US soul music fans have generally been oblivious to the uniformly enjoyable output of British pop/soul man, Paul Carrack. Known principally for his hits as lead singer for Ace ("How Long"), Squeeze ("Tempted") and Mike + the Mechanics ("The Living Years"), Carrack had occasional solo chart success in the US in the 80s, hitting the top 40 with "I Need You" and "Don't Shed A Tear." But what most don't know is that, following his gigs with half a dozen bands, Carrack focused almost exclusively on his solo career beginning in the late 90s and has issued a number of terrific albums that bridged adult pop with classic soul, all the while showcasing his smoothly engaging voice and his underrated songwriting skills.
With 2008's I Know That Name, now being released in "Ultimate" form with extra tracks, Carrack has created perhaps his most consistently melodic solo album, a uniformly fine affair that just gets better with repeated listenings. The disc opens with the upbeat UK hit, "No Doubt About It," and continues through fourteen blissful tracks, each hookier than the last, featuring strong, Gospel-tinged remakes (the Temptations' "Soul To Soul" and the Hollies' "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother"), Southern soul originals ("It Ain't Easy, "Love Is Thicker Than Water") and infectious pop/reggae numbers ("Ain't No Love In the City," "Just 4 Tonight"). Perhaps most notable are Carrack's terrific forays into 60s pop styles, including the bouncy "Stay Awake," the orchestral "If I Didn't Love You" and the Burt Bacharach-like "Am I In That Dream?" Carrack contributed two songs to the Eagles' 2008 Long Road Out of Eden, and group members Don Henley and Timothy B. Schmidt return the favor here, appearing on Carrack's fine version of "I Don't Want To Hear Anymore."
Even though Carrack's solo albums have been generally solid, none have quite risen to the level of consistent engagement as I Know That Name. There isn't a wasted note on the disc, not one "filler" cut. It's all meat, and Carrack delivers it with aplomb. For lovers of the kind of soulful pop that Hall & Oates, Michael McDonald and Bobby Caldwell brought back in the day, there is still an artist who is delivering the goods, just as he has for four decades. Ladies and gentlemen, please meet Paul Carrack...again. Highly recommended.
By Chris Rizik